Abdi Mohamed, 13, shrugs off his shoulders, smiles and apologetically declines a soda as he slowly sips water. The sun is scotching hot and his peers are scrambling over a crate of soda, a drink he has long forgotten its taste.
Abdi was diagnosed with diabetes when he was only 10 years, but for the past three years, he has learned the ropes to ‘maturity’ in dieting and even joined a health group that brings together diabetic patients.
“I do not take sodas, I watch what I eat and I rarely eat in public places because of my condition. You see, diabetes is best managed when one is disciplined in observing what they eat,” said Abdi.
Unlike his peers, he looks mature for his age, often declining treats and offers, dismissing them with a joke and always reminding people to eat healthy.
“Sweets and all these other junk food people eat are not healthy. Eat what is healthy and what will keep you going, not what will make you sick. After all, you can never satisfy your cravings,” said Abdi amid laughter.
Abdi, a Standard Six pupil at Marigat Primary School in Baringo County, is among the many children in the region living with diabetes.
Like Abdi, 13-year-old Vivian Limo has been battling diabetes for the past three years.
Vivian, who studies in a boarding school, has been managing her condition well despite the many challenges she faces.
“Diabetic learners face many challenges from the food served in school, storage of insulin and even juggling studies with attending clinics to check blood sugar levels,” said Vivian.
Joining a diabetic health group, Baringo South Diabetes Organisation, that ensures they attend clinics every Tuesday at Marigat sub-county hospital has helped most of the learners cope.
Marion Wendot’s story is somehow different. Marion, 18, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2016. She was then in Form Three at Kesub Girl’s. She had to leave and join a day school where she could easily access medication, manage her diet as well as keep up with her studies.
“I did not understand why I had diabetes. I participated in athletics and advocated for healthy eating habits. When the news was broken to me, I was devastated,” said Marion.
She eventually came to terms with her condition and is sitting her Form Four national examination at Marigat Secondary School.
“Most schools do not cater for students with special diets. They also lack fridges where one can store drugs. Accessing drugs and syringes is a major challenge.
For Marion, her daily routine dictates she wakes up by 4am to prepare to go to Marigat hospital where she keeps her insulin drugs. After getting her jab, she then heads to school where she has to report by 7am for classes.
During lunch time, she walks back home where she takes her meals before heading back for afternoon classes.
Besides insulin drugs that cost Sh ,200 a month, she also spends Sh30 a day on needles.
Fifteen-year-old Winnie Jepchirchir’s case is also different - she gets admitted five to six times a year for constant lack of drugs.
The Form One student at St Patrick Shimoni in Eldama Ravine has type 1 diabetes and has lost a sibling to diabetes. Her 23-year-old brother is also diabetic, and also has challenges accessing drugs.
Lack of modern medical equipment and access to drugs has been a major challenge to patients from the region. As a result 87 diabetic patients from Marigat, among them Abdi, Vivian and Marion, came together under the umbrella of Baringo South Diabetes Organisation to encourage each other on how to manage the disease.
Source of solace
The founder, Prisca Chemobo, said she formed the group following high cases of individuals who suffered from the disease with no one taking care of them.
“This group is a source of our solace. Here, we encourage each other, share challenges we face and through it, we have overcome stigma,” said Ms Chemobo.
However, in the neighbouring Nakuru County, the government has partnered with a medical sponsor to offer services and drugs to patients at subsidised prices.
The partnership with Novo Nordisk will see diabetic patients access quality medication and management of the disease.
Under the programme, individuals below the age of 21 will receive blood-glucometer and insulin, and also go for regular checkups frre of charge.
Those above 21 years can access insulin at Sh200, down from Sh1,500 at the Diabetic Centre of Excellence situated at Nakuru Level Five Hospital.
Novo Nordisk, a medical sponsor company, established the centre in 2016.
The centre, established at a cost of Sh10 million, has computersed equipment for checking sugar levels and pressure.
According to Novo Nordisk project manager Dorothy Owegi, access to insulin has been a major challenge to patients in the country because of financial constraints.
“We need people to access quality care on time, more so children,” said Ms Owegi.